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Sonos sues Google over alleged smart speaker tech theft

Multi-room music streaming pioneer Sonos is apparently fed-up with the incursion of tech giants into its space and is defiantly fighting back – not with an exciting new product it is launching at CES, but through the courts.

Sonos has filed lawsuits against Google in two US courts, arguing the search and mobile giant has infringed upon five patents, including those pertaining to the ability for smart speakers to connect to each other.

However, as the New York Times reports on Tuesday, this is no regular patent infringement lawsuit. There’s history here. Sonos says it gave Google “effective blueprints” to Sonos speakers as part of a Google Play Music-related partnership way back in 2013.

Related: Sonos Beam review

Now Sonos says it regrets entering into the agreement, which it alleges Google used to steal the intellectual property before it launched its own range of smart speakers.

“Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology,” Patrick Spence, Sonos’s chief executive told The New York Times. “Despite our repeated and extensive efforts over the last few years, Google has not shown any willingness to work with us on a mutually beneficial solution. We’re left with no choice but to litigate.”

Naturally, Google isn’t too pleased with the allegations, with a spokesperson saying “we are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith. We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously.”

Spence says Sonos was mulling a lawsuit against Amazon, as well as Google, but said the prospect of taking on two tech behemoths at the same time was too much for the much smaller company.

An Amazon spokeswoman responded to the allegations by saying: “The Echo family of devices and our multi-room music technology were developed independently by Amazon.”

This segment from the New York Times report sums up one element of the complaint against both firms:

Sonos bought the Google devices and used a technique called packet sniffing that monitored how the speakers were communicating. They discovered that Google’s devices used Sonos’s approach for solving a variety of technological challenges. Sonos executives said they found Amazon’s Echo speakers had also copied Sonos technology.

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